Psalm 146 – “Underdog”

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Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
     who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord! (NRSV)

I admit that I am a classic cartoon connoisseur.  I was told when I was a kid that I would outgrow watching them – I’m still waiting for that day.  One of the cartoons I enjoyed (and still do!) watching is “Underdog.”  There is something deep within the human psyche that cheers for the underdog.  Wally Cox was the perfect voice for the mild-mannered shoe-shine boy to take his underdog super energy pill and fly through the sky to rescue Sweet Polly Purebread.

That “something” within us which identifies with the underdog is the justice of God.  It is important to understand that when the term “justice” is used, it isn’t meant primarily in punitive terms, as we might typically think of it.  Justice is providing people with what they need to survive, thrive, and flourish in life.  Withholding things from individuals or groups of people, or folks not possessing the things they need to function as humans in this world is an “injustice.”

Today’s psalm from the Revised Common Lectionary lets us know that God cares about the underdog – the one for whom may be lacking in basic material and spiritual provisions for living.  There ought to be no doubt that God is deeply concerned for those who are powerless, defenseless, and on the margins of society.  The psalmist identifies such persons: those who are hungry; the prisoners; the blind; those bowed down; the orphan; and, the widow.  All these people represent individuals without the ability to be movers and shakers in their society.  In short, they need God; they deserve justice.

And God delights to use his power to champion them and lift them up.  What is more, truth be told, it turns out that all of us are underdogs.  We all need God.  We all are meant to both receive and provide justice.  Every altruistic decision we make and just action we take is really God’s gracious empowerment to do it.  We owe it all to God.  Thus, the logical and reasonable response to such a God is praise – to declare our hallelujahs to the One who reigns forever and always sees humanity’s great need.  How will you praise God today for who he is and for what he has done?  Let such praise shape your soul and lift your spirit as you intentionally connect with the merciful God who gives the underdog what they need.

Eternal God, you reign forever and ever.  I praise you for as long as I live.  I put my trust in you, and not in those in who wield their apparent power and influence for personal gain.  Let them wallow in their delusions while I declare the mighty Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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